Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mark Daily's Military Service Reflects Higher Duty

Army 2nd Lieutenant Mark Daily was killed in Iraq on January 15, 2007. Daily had reservations about the Iraq War early on, but he read widely about politics, and his contemplations about the meaning of freedom and duty led him to put aside his doubts. He eventually decided on a military career, with the ultimate goal of serving in Iraq. Friday's Los Angeles Times ran a Column One article on Daily's story. His reasons for joining -- outlined in an essay he wrote on his personal web page -- have become widely circulated on the Internet and in the halls of government. Here's the background:

Oct. 29, 2006. On the night before he deployed to Iraq, Army 2nd Lt. Mark Jennings Daily sat down at his laptop in his Texas apartment and began tapping out an essay for his MySpace Web page. Daily, a 23-year-old Irvine native who considered himself a liberal humanist, had decided to join the fight despite initial doubts about the war.

Before shipping out, he wanted to explain why.

The decision had befuddled some. After all, Daily was a UCLA political science graduate with a wide circle of friends and dreams of becoming a senator, or a history professor, or a foreign correspondent. Why join the Army?

His essay would turn out to be a last testament to one soldier's courage and convictions.
Read the whole article. Daily's story resonates with me in a special way. He grew up near my home in Orange County and his academic training was in political science. It's his words and erudition that are so particulary compelling, however (Daily's essay's available on the Times website and remains posted on his MySpace page). His essay shows a tremendous level of moral clarity and the need for sacrifice in furthering the ideals of justice:

I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day "humanists" who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow "global citizens" to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn't confront the Ba'ath party, the Taliban or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!) or even a creeping suspicion of America's intentions. When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow "humanists" and I would relish contently in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday.
Be sure to read the whole essay. As the Times piece notes, Daily's words will live on as a testament to courage, selflessness, and human goodness.

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